Vacation, yummy stuff and Amtrak

On vacation and eating yummy food here in the Carolinas as is tradition here.

Took Amtrak ’cause sometimes I just don’t want to drive that far. Amtrak has wi-fi so we can play some games. We can stretch legs and snooze. Much better than the painful bottom and cramped legs I get from the long drive. We had a delay on our train ride in when our train hit a motorcycle as we neared the Durham Amtrak station. Supposedly the motorcycle exploded on impact and no body was injured. When I asked they said the guy let go/jumped off the bike before it collided with the train. Not much to see, hear or feel as far as we were concerned. The train is huge compared to a motorcycle. The only thing I noticed that was even remotely different was a slight strange smell like a little burning rubber mixed with gasoline fumes. We were delayed about 45 minutes as the police made a report and the conductors checked the train for damage. I’m not even sure who hit whom — did the train hit the motorcycle or did the motorcycle hit the train? Either way, it seems like it was one of those crossings that only have lights to indicate an oncoming train. Or something who knows. Just another weird thing while on Amtrak. Go figure.

Yesterday, we visited the Museum of York County which was pretty cool for a small Caroline museum. Maybe I’ll post some photos. There are lots of “stuffed” animals. Binks was worried about whether they were animals that were killed some other way or if they were killed and stuffed specifically for the museum. That would make her sad. Other fun exhibits there though and I think we’d definitely visit again.

Been eating yummy chicken, ribs and BBQ here which means I’m officially in a meat coma. Yum! But I don’t normally eat this much meat. Binks and I made yummy chocolate cake which we doctored a bit by adding an extra egg to the mix. We made homemade chocolate frosting (I’ll see if I can post that recipe). It was totally delish!

Lovely weather.

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We Feel the Need for Mead

So I thought I might start adding some of our mead notes to the blog.

Mead is wine made from fermenting a combination of honey and water instead of grape or other fruit juice. Several months ago we were at Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church where we had an especially wonderful mead called Fox Hill, Special Reserve. They had another also lovely mead, Fox Hill, Ginger-Apricot. The Ginger-Apricot was lighter and closer to the Chaucer’s mead we’ve had in the past both at home and at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. The Special Reserve was a dryer, amber-colored mead which tasted like darker honeys–full-flavored, deep, wild tasting. This is the one that really got our attention.

I headed over to Total Wine and More. This seemed like a good place to start looking for the Fox Hill mead offerings or any other mead offerings beside Chaucer’s. Trader Joe’s sometimes carries that already. Don’t get me wrong, I like Chaucer’s fine, but the Fox Hill at Mad Fox was a whole ‘nother level of mead, and it started us on a quest for what else is out there.

Sadly, we didn’t find Fox Hill at Total Wines. There were others. Though, not as many varieties as I’d hoped considering how many wines they carry. But at least it’s a start. We’ve tasted three additional meads so far and begun fermenting our own.

First the store-purchased meads. Along with the very traditional Chaucer’s we’ve tried Redstone, Oliver, and Carroll’s Mead.

Redstone Mountain Mead was the first we tried. It comes in a colbalt blue bottle with an EZ-cap. This kind of cap is made of porcelain with a rubber gasket and metal spring clamps to hold it on tight. The label shows the brew date, which I really like. April 13, 2011 in the case of that bottle. The ingredient list is there and simple with just Orange Blossom Honey, Wildflower Honey, Spring Water, Montrachet yeast, and “The Love!.” The website does indeed show an entertaining love of mead. The mead itself was kind of disappointing. This was the first we tried other than Chaucer’s and Fox Hill, so perhaps we were being too hard on it at the time. I want to get another bottle and try it again. Redstone Mountain mead had a nice aroma, sweet honey taste, but a bitter aftertaste which neither of us cared for. Drinkable, yes. But that bitter taste got to us. Reading more about meads over the past several months, I wonder if the bitter taste might not age out. The bottles are great since we can clean, sanitize, and use them to bottle our own mead when we get to that step. So I think we should at least try it again at some point.

Oliver Camelot Mead comes in a beautiful bottle. Flowers are painted on the back and they shine like a gem through the clear, colorless bottle and light mead. There’s a bee molded into the glass of the bottle. It would make a lovely gift and look pretty sitting on a counter or table. The mead inside is very light. I have to say, Dave ended up drinking most of this one. So for more specific tasting notes, I should probably try it again. It was light in color and flavor with honey notes. It was missing the bitter aftertaste of Redstone. But it didn’t have the depth and honey flavor of Fox Hill or even Chaucer’s.

Carroll’s Mead has a less-than-elegant label with their name in large, heavy black lettering, a big Scottish coat of arms, and the words “Sweet Honey Wine” at the bottom. The bottle is plain, clear, and, we discovered at home, screw top. Not exactly wowing us, but we gave it a try as the price wasn’t bad for a mead and ya never know. The Carroll’s Mead website says that it’s the official mead of the NY Renaissance Faire. It must be good! We’ll I’m glad we live closer to the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Carroll’s Mead tastes more like a wine cooler than mead. It isn’t yucky. It just doesn’t taste much like honey wine. If I really focus on trying to taste the honey I get a few faint notes, but otherwise they must add some flavoring agents like citric or maltic acid. It’s a tart, fruity beverage with an alcohol content of about 8% which, in my mind, makes it more cooler than much of anything else. Probably well-liked by folks who don’t care for regular wine or who appreciate the refreshing, tart-fruity taste of a Bartles and Jaymes.

Chaucer’s Honey Mead is one we’ve had many times at the Maryland Renaissance Festival and it’s part of what I enjoy about going there. It’s a sweet dessert wine with a light clear color and lovely honey flavor. Not the amazing depth and flavor of Fox Hill, Special Reserve or even quite as good as Fox Hill, Ginger-Apricot, but still a really good, classic dessert mead that tastes like mead.

Hello August!

July, I wish you could have stuck around here a little longer. But I know how these things go. I can’t believe summer has only a few weeks left!